Erin Henderson has a healthy respect for Aaron Rodgers. Their only similarity is the pronunciation of their names. But as the Packers invade the Metrodome Sunday, Aaron, the face of the Packers offense, and Erin, the Vikings’ leading tackler, are expected to be on the field at the same time for every play when the Packers offense and the Vikings defense are on the field.
Henderson has every reason to have a healthy respect for Rodgers. In their last nine meetings, Rodgers has thrown for 2,794 yards with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions. If Rodgers had a full season of just playing the Vikings for his career, it would pro-rate out to throwing for 4,967 yards, 43 touchdowns and seven interceptions, which would give him a QB rating of about 130.0.
What is even worse from the Vikings’ perspective is that, in his last four games at the Metrodome, he has thrown for 1,385 yards and 13 touchdowns and one interception. While he has lost two of those four games, if extrapolated over a full season, Rodgers would throw for 5,540 yards with 52 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of about 145.
Rodgers is breaking new ground being without three of his top four receivers (four of five if you include his career-long association with Greg Jennings), but Henderson doesn’t view Rodgers as a wounded animal without his backups. The Packers have one of the league’s top-rated offenses, even missing vital pieces from seasons past. Rodgers is still large and in charge.
“They’re playing some good football,” Henderson said. “They’re doing some good things. He’s got those guys going over there as usual. He’s up to his usual tactics. It’s a rivalry game and we’re looking forward to it.”
While the Vikings have struggled with a quarterback conveyor belt that keeps bringing in a different item to be scanned, Rodgers has remained the constant in the Packers offense. The backup band changes on a weekly basis, but the leading singer and his management are keeping the ship afloat.
“That’s kudos to their coaching staff, too, and what they have going out there with their scheme,” Henderson said. “They’re able to plug different players in there and still be successful. Rodgers trusts his guys out there and he knows, if he gets the ball to them, they can make some plays.”
But if Rodgers is going to win Sunday night, he’s going to do it with a lot of players – from offensive tackles to Eddie Lacy to just about every receiver not named Jordy Nelson – that have never heard how loud the Metrodome can be.
Rodgers has posted some gaudy numbers against the Vikings. Epic numbers. But that was a different backup band. If the Vikings keep the game close early, there are going to be a lot of players in critical offensive roles that are first-timers in terms of the road version of the Vikings-Packers rivalry.
As cockeyed optimist Lloyd Christmas once said, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings have the 25th-ranked offense (19th rushing, 24th passing) and the 27th-ranked defense (14th rushing, 29th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 316 yards a game (214 passing, 102 rushing). The Vikings defense is allowing 391 yards a game (289 passing, 102 rushing).
Green Bay has the 2nd-ranked offense (6th rushing, 4th passing) and the 15th-ranked defense (3rd rushing, 24th passing).
The Packers are averaging 435 yards a game (300 passing, 135 rushing). Defensively, Green Bay is allowing 346 yards a game (267 passing, 79 rushing).
Green Bay and Minnesota are tied for 20th place in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-2. The Packers have seven takeaways and nine giveaways, while the Vikings have 13 takeaways and 15 giveaways.
The Packers are tied for 17th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 12 of 24 red zone possessions (50 percent). The Vikings are 24th at 46.7 percent (seven touchdowns on 15 possessions).
The Packers defense is dead last in red zone efficiency, allowing touchdowns on 13 of 18 possessions (72.2 percent). The Vikings are 23rd at 59.3 percent (16 touchdowns on 27 possessions).
Despite playing one less game than more than half the league, the Vikings have allowed opponents into the red zone 27 times. Only Jacksonville (32) and Denver (29), both of whom have played one more game, have allowed opponents into the red zone more often – the Broncos because they have routinely had big leads and played prevent defense in the fourth quarter and Jacksonville simply because it’s so bad.
The league average of converting third downs is 38.3 percent. Offensively, Green Bay is 10th at 40.5 percent (32 of 79). The Vikings are 12th at 39.5 percent (34 of 86).
Defensively, the Packers are 14th on third downs, allowing conversions on 36.8 percent of chances (32 of 87). Minnesota is 31st at 46.5 percent (40 of 86).
The only defense with a third-down conversion rate worse than the Vikings are the Giants, who have allowed conversions on 47.2 percent of opponent opportunities.
The average starting position for teams following kickoffs is the 21.4-yard line. The Vikings are second in the league in offensive starting position at the 24.8-yard line, just 0.2 yards behind league leading Chicago.
Defensively, the Vikings are 31st in opponent’s average starting position at the 24.4-yard line. The only team worse is Green Bay (25.1-yard line), which could be good news for Cordarrelle Patterson.
Aaron Rodgers has three 300-yard passing games this season. The Vikings have yet to have a 300-yard passing game.
Both the Vikings and Packers have allowed three 300-yard passing games.
Green Bay has seven 100-yard receiving games – two each from Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones and one from Jarrett Boykin. The Vikings have two 100-yard receiving games, both from Jerome Simpson.
The Vikings have allowed five 100-yard receiving games, while Green Bay has allowed two.
Adrian Peterson has two 100-yard rushing games this season. The Packers have three – one each from Eddie Lacy, James Starks and Jonathan Franklin.
The Packers have allowed one 100-yard rushing game. The Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard runner.
Despite being in the middle of the pack in pass attempts (due to playing one less game than more than half the teams in the league), Rodgers is in the top 10 in almost every statistical category for quarterbacks. He is 19th in attempts (220), 16th in completions (143), eighth in completion percentage (65.0), 10th in yards (1,906), third in average gain (8.66 yards), tied for seventh in touchdowns (13), third in touchdown percentage (5.9), eighth in interceptions (4), 10th in interception percentage (1.8) and fourth in passer rating (104.5).
Adrian Peterson is seventh in rushing with 511 rushing yards. Lacy is 19th with 352 yards.
Nelson is tied for 30th in receptions with 32. Simpson leads the Vikings with 26 receptions, which ties him for 50th in the league.
Nelson is 15th in receiving yards with 526. Simpson is 34th with 404 yards.
Peterson is tied for seventh in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 36 points (six touchdowns). Nelson is tied for 15th with 30 points (five TDs).
Mason Crosby is tied for fifth in scoring among kickers with 60 points in six games. Blair Walsh is 27th with 42 points.
Peterson is 12th in yards from scrimmage with 612 yards (511 rushing, 101 passing). Nelson is 28th with 526 yards – all receiving.
Jeff Locke is 13th in punting average (46.1 yards) and 10th in net punting average (41.1 yards).
Green Bay’s Tim Masthay is 16th in punting average (45.3 yards) and 18th in net punting average (39.7 yards).
Thanks to his huge punt return (86 yards) last week, Marcus Sherels is third in punt return average (15.9 yards). Green Bay’s Micah Hyde is seventh in return average (11.6 yards).
Patterson leads the league in kickoff return average at 36.5 yards per return. His average is 1.4 yards more than any other returner and more than seven yards higher than all but three others.
Only 16 players have more than two interceptions this season. Three Vikings – Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Harrison Smith – are tied for 17th with two interceptions. No Packer has more than one interception.
Jared Allen is tied for 22nd in the league with four sacks. A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews are tied for 47th with three sacks each.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.